Broadcast news career began in community radio

James Lake in the Fox FM studio Melbourne. Picture supplied
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“Talkback radio quickly takes you from journalist level 1 to a level 10, you have to be able to digest a story and hear opinions from people and put it all together in seconds.” James Lake – news operations manager and breakfast news reader at Southern Cross Austereo – talks to Matthew Withers.

How did you get started in journalism?

I started in community radio at SYN FM during high school and uni. I studied business at uni not journalism, which helped me understand how the business and law of news works.

Radio can be a difficult industry to get into, it is so small. I must have applied for 20 to 30 jobs. I got into a local radio station in Albury, they were desperate for someone. I read news in Albury for over a year and even did some talkback radio, which great radio experience.

Why do you like radio journalism? 

I love the news side of things and I never imagined I would be working with Eddie McGuire and Brendon Fevola. From a news perspective, there is a real sense of importance without arrogance, because of how radio works people might only be listening for 10-15 mins. So, with every two minutes I have to read the news, I have that tiny window to tell them the most important thing they need to know for that day. 

What are some challenges of the Job? 

Eddie McGuire was tough to work with because he is so difficult to impress. I do not think I ever really ticked all the boxes with him, but every day he would be pushing me to work harder and I think that has absolutely made me be a better journalist. He really made me think about how we engage with our audience. 

What tips do you have on how to do the job well and survive?

You must always remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, you need to forgive yourself. When you make a mistake on radio either it is so small and no one will notice, or it’s a big mistake and people will notice but they won’t care too much. So, at the end of the day there is no reason to beat yourself up about it, you just need to learn from it. 

How would a young reporter break into radio?

It definitely helps to have a uni degree. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a journalism degree. The industry is all about contacts and who you know because it is a small industry – you need to be front of mind if there is ever a job opening.

James Lake is news operations manager and breakfast news reader at Southern Cross Austereo. He also reads news on the Fifi, Fev, and Byron Morning show. SCA is one of Australia’s biggest commercial radio networks with 88 stations nationally, led by the Triple M and Hit Networks.